Even before the Henry County Board votes on some 268 special use permits for wind turbines from rural Galva to Woodhull, Invenergy is planning another public hearing this fall, because 20 to 30 more landowners are interested in having potential turbine sites.
Based solely on the amount of land under easement in each school district, Invenergy may have 141 turbines in the Galva school district, 85 in AlWood, 29 in Cambridge and 13 in ROWVA, according to preliminary figures released by Henry County supervisor of assessments Lindi Kernan.
The configuration of the wind farm may change. The company is planning to pinpoint turbine locations by working with landowners once the crop is out of the fields.
Kernan is projecting a total of anywhere from $2.5 to $4 million in annual tax revenue from the Invenergy wind farm to be distributed among all Henry County taxing districts that have turbines in their boundaries, including schools, the county, Black Hawk College, townships, fire districts, park districts and library districts.
Overall, she’s projecting between $8.3 and $13.3 million in property tax revenue for the 555 turbines owned by all three firms, an increase of 21 percent. Again, it’s spread among all taxing districts with turbines.
The Bishop Hill Wind Energy Center is a 400-megawatt project with $500 million in capital costs. Based in Chicago, Invenergy is the first of the three wind farms to seek Henry County approval.
The three wind farms have been working hard in the county over the past year, but Invenergy’s Mike Arndt said he would not compare the land race to the board game of Monopoly.
“There’s plenty of land for everyone,” he says.
“Without participating landowners we cannot site a project,” he said. “In Henry County they are more than willing, for the most part.”
The project cannot get within three miles of any airport, so the east-west runway in Kewanee precludes the wind farm from moving further east. The project does need to run a line to the Kewanee substation on the northeast side of town.
The Bishop Hill Wind Energy Center could be one of the biggest land-based wind farms in the world.
Other existing wind farms in Illinois are Mendota Hills in Lee County with a 60-turbine, 50 megawatt project, and Crescent Ridge in Bureau County with more than 30 turbines in a 50 megawatt wind farm.
Arndt said economies of scale make a larger project more feasible.
“You have a better chance of selling it to the utility so it makes more sense,” he said.
A native of the Janesville, Wis., area, Arndt said Henry County has been very organized and Henry County zoning officer Bill Philhower has been an asset.
Arndt added Invenergy presented a lot of studies which have likely eliminated concerns here. He also said setback concerns in Bishop Hill are to be resolved by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
“We can trust them to do their job,” he said.
“As long as you do your homework, I think a lot of questions are answered,” he said. “The studies show very little impact on our site area.”
He also said the way turbines will probably be taxed in Illinois is good for local taxing districts and especially schools.
“I think Henry County has been a great place for us to develop a project,” he said. “This one has come together very well. There is still a ways to go, but things are looking good. It’s a good project.”
Competitive Power Ventures is working on two separate wind farms. In October they will have public hearings for 135 turbines comprising Wind Spring Creek, located mostly in Munson Township between Geneseo and Cambridge.
A public hearing for Midland, outside Kewanee, will be in November with a projected county board vote in December.
Greenlight Energy, which is now part of BP Alternative Energy, is developing a wind farm in five townships – Cornwall (south of Atkinson), Munson, Osco, Geneseo and Edford. Original plans were for 100 turbines with their zoning application to the county’s public hearing in December. A corporate spokeswoman was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
By Lisa Hammer of The Star Courier
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